A lot of people joke about a ‘sugar coma’ when indulging in too many sweets, but for some people it’s a very real risk.

Diabetes is a name given to a group of different conditions that effect how the body maintains glucose (a type of sugar) levels in the blood. Glucose builds up in the blood, leading to high blood glucose levels, which is the cause of health problems related to diabetes.

Some of the main symptoms of diabetes are:

  • Feeling thirsty.
  • Urinating frequently (especially at night).
  • Weight loss or loss of muscle mass.
  • Feeling tired.
Diabetes is one of the most common and well known endocrine disorders but there are plenty of others that can be just as serious, or even more so. The endocrine system is made up of glands that produce hormones and regulate many of the body’s most important functions. It is responsible for how tissues and bones grows, how your heart beats and can even impact your ability to make a baby.

The endocrine system effects whether you develop thyroid disease, sexual dysfunction, growth disorders and other hormone-related diseases. Some examples are Graves Disease, Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Osteoporosis, Cushing’s Syndrome, Addison’s Disease and Thyroid Cancer.

Endocrine disorders can typically be grouped in to 2 different categories and these are:

  • Endocrine disease due to lesions such as tumours or nodules in the endocrine system. This may or may not affect the hormone levels.
  • Endocrine disease caused by a gland producing too much or not enough of an endocrine hormone, creating a hormonal imbalance.

To give you an Idea of just how many systems can be affected, the glands include:

  • Thyroid: The butterfly-shaped gland in the front of the neck that controls your metabolism.
  • Thymus: A gland in the upper chest that helps develop the body's immune system early in life.
  • Adrenal glands: Are two glands that sit on top of the kidneys, they release the hormone cortisol.
  • Ovaries: The female reproductive organs that release eggs at ovulation and produce sex hormones.
  • Testes: The male reproductive glands that produce sex hormones and sperm.
  • Pituitary gland: Found at the base of brain behind the sinuses. It’s often referred to as the "master gland" because it influences many other glands, such as the thyroid. The pituitary gland can affect a woman’s menstrual cycles and the release of her breast-milk, it can also have an effect on bone growth.
  • Hypothalamus: Part of the lower middle brain that tells the pituitary gland when to release hormones.
  • Pineal gland: A gland found near the centre of the brain that can be linked to sleep patterns.
  • Islet cells in the pancreas: Cells in the pancreas that control the release of the hormones glucagon and insulin.
These glands affect many important functions of the body and when one stops performing the way it should it can have a domino effect, causing a hormonal imbalance that can lead to endocrine disease or disorder. The whole system may be affected by injury or infection too, which can cause temporary or ongoing issues.

Getting help

The two most common symptoms of any endocrine disorders are fatigue and weakness and these signs may prompt your doctor to order blood or urine tests, if something more sinister is suspected imaging tests can also be ordered to pinpoint the location. Treatment can be quite tricky because a change in one hormone can throw off another, so if you have a confirmed or suspected endocrine disorder you’ll probably be referred to an expert in the endocrine system (endocrinologist).

If you choose to use a women’s health clinic for menopause, menstrual problems or other hormonal imbalances, they may have an endocrinologist on site or be able to refer you to one so that you can continue to receive consistent healthcare for all of your concerns. Epworth Geelongs Women’s Health Clinic have a team of female general practitioners who specialise in women’s health issues, and can refer to specialists on site. To find out more about the services they offer and how to make an appointment.

20 April 2018


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